Canyon Tree Frog

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While visiting Zion National Park in Utah I was able to see and hear this interesting amphibian.

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It is relatively small (at just over two inches), plump and warty, with a toad-like appearance. A distinctive feature is its suction-like adhesive toe pads for climbing.

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They can vary in color and pattern considerably, but Canyon Tree Frogs usually match the soil or rock color of their native habitat to serve as camouflage.

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As its name implies, it is an amphibian of canyons and arroyos, particularly rocky, intermittent or permanent stream courses.

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Despite being called “tree frogs,” they prefer to perch on boulders and rock faces overlooking pools of water. During warm weather they spend the day hiding in rock crevices.

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The Canyon Tree Frog’s call is a loud, rattling series of short trills that sound like they’re coming from inside a tin can. The call is surprisingly loud given the small size of this creature.

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This was a neat find and the first time the I got to see Canyon Tree Frogs “in person.”

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Amargosa Toad

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While visiting Las Vegas I decided to take a 3-1/2 hour drive to search for a very cool amphibian that lives in a remote area of the Mojave Desert.

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The Amargosa toad only resides in Oasis Valley, Nevada; specifically, it occurs along a 10-mile stretch of the Amargosa River and upland springs.

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This 3-1/2 to 5 inch creature has a warty back with a light, mid-dorsal stripe and black speckling on a background ranging widely in color from buff to olive.

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Unlike most frogs and toads, Amargosa Toads do not call and never vocalize unless threatened (they are able to produce alarm calls when predators grab them).

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Like most amphibians, they live in damp areas and flooded marshes are one of their favorite habitats. They are nocturnal hunters, feeding on spiders, insects, snails and even scorpions.

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In 2006, the Nevada Division of Wildlife estimated that the total population included about 2,000 individuals. It was a memorable experience seeing this creature in the wild and worth the long drive.

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Plains Leopard Frog

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While walking along the edges of the Big Muddy River in southern Illinois, I often come across this spotted amphibian. It tends to be more brown than the Northern and Southern Leopard Frogs I have encountered.

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The Leopard Frog’s common name originates from the irregular, dark colored spotting on its back. It has long, powerful legs, and is capable of jumping surprising distances.

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Despite the “plains” name, this frog is almost always found in or near permanent bodies of water, such as rivers, creeks and ponds. Its identification feature to differentiate it from other Leopard Frogs, is that the ridge of skin along each side of the back is broken toward the hind end.

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The Plains Leopard Frog feeds on a variety of invertebrates. It mainly uses a “sit and wait strategy.” Once a food items has been sighted, it will stalk and attempt to grab it.

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Its species name is blairi and it is sometimes referred to as Blair’s Leopard Frog, named after the noted zoologist and University of Texas professor, Dr. W. Frank Blair.

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Southern Leopard Frog

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This is one of the most conspicuous herps that I see on my visits to southern Illinois. At night they are often out and about and seen crossing roads. In the daytime I’ve encountered them in a range of habitats, including deep in the woods and high up in limestone bluffs.

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It is also one of the most variable amphibians in the area in regards to appearance. It can be green or brown in color with varying amounts of spots – and sometimes no spots at all.

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Although Southern Leopard Frogs are often found close to water, they are more terrestrial than other frogs in their genus and can stray far from water. They are active both by day and night and can be seen in large numbers on rainy nights.

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They are powerful, agile jumpers and may flee away from water rather than toward it. When being pursued, they leap in haphazard, zigzag patterns that make they very difficult to successfully pursue and capture.

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Southern Leopard Frogs search for food mainly on land. Insects make up the majority of their diet, but they also feed on spiders, pillbugs and worms.

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Despite is being quite common, I always enjoy coming across this beautiful amphibian – no two are alike!

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Mountain Chorus Frog

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This amphibian is native to Ohio, yet I have yet to find it in my home state. I have encountered it in West Virginia and Kentucky though.

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Mountain Chorus Frogs are small (1 to 1-1/4 inches long) and can be distinguished from Ohio’s similar Western Chorus Frog by the presence of two dark, curved stripes on the back which look like reversed parentheses.

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They can be heard calling in shallow water near forests or in wooded ponds, typically from February to April. Their call resembles the sound made by rubbing one’s finger over the teeth of a hard plastic comb.

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Outside of breeding season that can be found on damp, wooded hillsides often quite some distance from standing water. It’s always fun to come across this elusive little creature that goes about its life largely unnoticed by humans.

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Foothill Yellow-legged Frog

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While visiting California, I decided to seek out this creek-dwelling creature. It was a bit of a challenge, since it is a Federal Species of Concern and California Species of Special Concern.

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After quite a bit of hiking I came upon a creek. It wasn’t long after arriving that I spotted an amphibian just shy of three inches with bumpy skin in muddy shades of red, green or brown. It was unremarkable at first glance, but flipping it over revealed a distinctive lemon-yellow color under its legs.

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The Foothill Yellow-legged Frog can be found in Pacificfrom the upper reaches of the Willamette River system, Oregon, all the way south to the Upper San Gabriel River in Los Angeles County, California.

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Once thriving across their range, these frogs have disappeared from more than half their historical localities due to a variety of threats, including dams, timber harvesting, mining, livestock grazing, roads and urbanization, climate change, pollution, invasive species and disease.

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This amphibian uses slow-flowing streams and rivers to lay its eggs during the Spring months after the flow from the Winter storms has settled. After hatching, the tadpoles typically stay around the location of the egg cluster. After metamorphosis, which typically takes 3-4 months, the juvenile frogs make their way upstream from the hatching site.

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The Foothill Yellow-legged Frog is one of the most poorly-known frog species, as no detailed study of its life history has ever been undertaken. I felt very lucky to have found a few individuals of this very cool amphibian on my outing.

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Great Plains Toad

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While visiting Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge in the Mojave Desert, I heard explosive jackhammer-like metallic trills that lasted almost a minute. I decided to investigate.

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Located in a region of Southern Nevada which receives only about 6-1/2 inches of rain per year, the refuge’s lakes, marshes, meadows and tall Cottonwood Trees are quite a contrast to the surrounding desert; it’s like an oasis.

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I eventually pinpointed where the noise was coming from and located my first ever Great Plains Toad. It was easily identified by its large, symmetrical olive blotches with light borders on a background color of gray-brown to green. It was a robust toad with dry, warty skin.

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Additional looking turned up a few more. This creature occurs in deserts, grasslands, semi-desert scrublands, open floodplains, and agricultural areas. The Great Plains Toad is beneficial to farmers, as its primary diet is various species of cutworms as well as other insects.

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This amphibian is widespread in the Great Plains States and the Southwestern United States. In dry areas it may only emerge from its burrow for a few weeks when conditions are right, and usually at night; but in areas with permanent water and abundant rain, it may be active all day.

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The Great Plains Toad is an accomplished burrower and often remains underground in the daytime if conditions aren’t ideal for it to be out and about. It has spades on its hind feet which makes them well equipped for digging.

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This amphibian is slow moving, often using a walking or crawling motion along with short hops. Like most toads in the United States, it relies on the secretion of poison from its wart-like glands to deter predators.

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It was very cool to come across this unexpected amphibian while on my visit to the Silver State.

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Upland Chorus Frog

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While on my visits to southern Illinois, I occasionally come across these small (about an inch) brown or gray frogs, with a light line across the upper lip and a dark stripe running through the eye. This is a species with an extremely variable pattern.

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The Upland Chorus Frog was recently separated from the Western Chorus Frog (which I sometimes find in my home state of Ohio), being identified as an individual species rather than a subspecies.

These are secretive, nocturnal amphibians, and are rarely seen except immediately after rains. They spend their days hiding in damp places such as under logs or rocks, emerging at night to hunt for food.

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These are secretive, nocturnal amphibians, and are rarely seen except immediately after rains. They spend their days hiding in damp places such as under logs or rocks, emerging at night to hunt for food.

They are an almost entirely terrestrial species, and found in a variety of habitats, such as moist woodlands, meadows and wooded habitat within swamps and the edges of marshes.

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Upland Chorus Frogs are members of the frog family Hylidae, which makes them relatives of the tree frogs, cricket frogs, and other chorus frogs. The male’s mating call is a regularly repeated “creeeek” resembling the sound of running a finger along a comb.

In many parts of its range, the Upland Chorus Frog is the first amphibian to start calling in the year, and is often viewed as a symbol of the arrival of spring.

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California Red-legged Frog

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This amphibian only lives in California. I’ve encountered them several times on my visits to the Golden State, though they are federally listed as a threatened species and are protected by law.

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This species is estimated to have disappeared from 70% of its range; it is an important food source for the endangered San Francisco Garter Snake. Two reasons for this amphibian’s decline are invasive species and habitat loss.

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The California Red-legged Frog became famous for being the frog featured in Mark Twain’s short story The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.

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At two to five inches long, it is the largest native frog in the western United States. It has a reddish coloring on the underside of the legs and belly. The back and top of the legs are covered in black spots or blotches. Typically, the face has a dark mask and a tan or light colored stripe above the jaw that extends to the shoulder.

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Like most frogs, they will eat just about anything they can catch and fit in their mouths. Most of the time their food is insects. Their favored habitat is slow-moving or standing deep ponds, pools and streams. Tall vegetation, like grasses, cattails and shrubs, provide protection from predators and the sun.

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Some of its challenges are non-native American Bullfrogs (which are well established in California) competing for habitat as well as eating them. Another challenge is homes, farms and buildings being built on their wetland habitats.

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I enjoy coming across these very cool creatures when visiting the West Coast, hopefully a way will be found to preserve what’s left of their population.

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Sierran Treefrog

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During my recent visit to California, I came across several examples of this small frog with a big head, large eyes, a slim waist, round pads on the toe tips and limited webbing between its toes.

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The name “treefrog” is not entirely accurate. This frog is chiefly a ground-dweller, living among shrubs and grass typically near water, but occasionally it can also be found climbing high in vegetation.

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Its large toe pads allow it to climb easily, and cling to branches, twigs, and grass. Like most frogs, its primary food is insects and other invertebrates.

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These amphibians can be a number of different colors, including green, tan, reddish, gray, brown, cream and black; most are a shade of green or brown, with pale or white bellies.

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They have a variety of dark markings on their backs and sides and a black or dark brown eye stripe that stretches from the nose, across the eye, and back to the shoulder.

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Adult Sierran Treefrogs are generally 1 to 2 inches long. On average, females are larger than males.

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The Sierran Treefrog makes its home around creeks, as well as woodlands, grassland, chaparral, pasture land, and even urban areas – including backyard ponds. It’s always fun to come across these charming and cool creatures.

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